The Thin Man

Posted by Jason Venter (October 20, 2016)

"The Thin Man" is the last novel Dashiell Hammett ever completed. From what I can tell, he abandoned his own writing projects because he began to feel that he had run out of new things to say. Fortunately, he had by that point produced a pretty decent collection of short fiction... and five novels.

"The Thin Man" tells the story of a former sleuth named Nick Charles who visits New York (his old stomping ground) on vacation with his young wife, Nora. They quickly find themselves involved in a murder mystery, and the principal players are mostly characters Nick has dealt with in the past, something like ten years ago. They are a dysfunctional lot, all told.

At first, Nick does everything he can to avoid becoming involved in the investigation, which centers on a woman who was shot in her apartment. However, the other characters he meets on the mean city streets aren't ready to let him stay out of things, and it quickly becomes clear that he must use his investigative skills to set things right. Fortunately, Nora is interested in seeing what adventures they can have in the process. She's a capable partner and a fun character to read about.

Other characters include a young girl who Nick used to bounce on his knee, so to speak. She's now 20 and described by other characters as quite attractive. However, she seems to have the emotional maturity of a gnat, a trait that seems to come directly from her mother. As for the girl's father, he hasn't been seen in quite some time... at least as the story begins.

I really don't want to say anything more about the plot, because that runs the risk of ruining the twists that come along the way. That would be a shame, because there aren't quite as many of them as showed up in previous books from Dashiell Hammett, and their impact isn't quite as severe. Maybe there was something to it when he said he was running out of new stories to tell.

I became a big fan of Hammett's by reading "The Red Harvest," his first published novel, and this was a nice way to finish up the time I've spent with his novels. Each one has felt different from its fellows, and this one kept that trend going. There was too much dialogue, perhaps, and some odd diversions that didn't contribute to the story as much as I thought they might. But ultimately, "The Thin Man" was another enjoyable tale from an author who definitely made his mark in the genre. I look forward to checking out his short fiction next, to see how it compares.

Rating: 8/10

Jason Venter is a freelance blogger who spends most of his time writing about games and technology. Follow him on Twitter if you dare, at @jasonventer.

Additional posts by Jason Venter...

[Chatter] Freelance Games Blogger Needs Regular Work

Here is a list of the skills you can pay me to put to work for your outlet!

[Reviews] The Glass Key

Takes Hammett's usual focus on murder and mixes it with a dash of political corruption, with mixed results.

[Reviews] The Maltese Falcon

If you're a fan of noir detective fiction but you haven't read this novel, fix that at the earliest opportunity.


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